The US launched an airstrike in Somalia early in the morning on Saturday, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a press release.
AFRICOM said the strike was launched about 28 miles northwest of the southern port city of Kismaayo. The command said its “initial assessment” found 13 al-Shabaab fighters were killed and no civilians were harmed. However, the Pentagon is notorious for undercounting civilian casualties, especially in Somalia.
AFRICOM said the strike was launched in support of the US-backed Mogadishu-based government, whose forces were engaged with al-Shabaab on the ground. The last known US airstrike in Somalia was conducted by AFRICOM on August 15.
US airstrikes in Somalia escalated in 2022, the year President Biden ordered the deployment of up to 500 troops to the country, and the US-backed government launched an offensive against al-Shabaab.
The US military hypes the threat of al-Shabaab due to its size and al-Qaeda affiliation, but it’s widely believed the group does not have ambitions outside of Somalia.
AFRICOM describes al-Shabaab as “the largest and most kinetically active al-Qaeda network in the world and has proved both its will and capability to attack partner and US forces and threaten US security interests.”
Al-Shabaab was born out of a US-backed Ethiopian invasion in 2006 that toppled the Islamic Courts Union, a coalition of Muslim groups who briefly held power in Mogadishu after ousting CIA-backed warlords.
Al-Shabaab was the radical offshoot of the Islamic Courts Union. The group’s first recorded attack was in 2007, and it wasn’t until 2012 that al-Shabaab pledged loyalty to al-Qaeda after years of fighting the US and its proxies.